My gender, in a timeline
Summer 2018, it was time to come out to the extended family. I was nervous and scared. In a preparatory conversation with my parents the week before the precipitous wedding, my dad suggested a diagram to help explain my transition to the family, as part of a coming out letter. Dad gave some hand-wavey description of something that would be helpful to him, and I thought about it for a few days before sitting down to make it.
This transition diagram is a tool to help explain this component, aspect, slice of my life to this point. It's a decent representation, and I think it communicates the idea pretty well.
I bare myself to you as I present both it, and an accompanying story.
The diagram fades in at the beginning, to indicate the coming to consciousness that we all experience as we grow from the total amnesia of early childhood into the formative period of our youth.
My childhood was characterized by a completely misunderstood yearning to be female. This, I know only in retrospect. I spent all my time with the other girls in my classes until I was no longer permitted to so do. I was eventually compelled to play sports with boys in my class and neighborhood, and didn't grasp at why I failed so utterly to fit in.
Femininity was persecuted thoroughly, and I learned to (try to) hide any semblance of it. This lead to a lot of hiding and reclusion. I had few male friends -- two, and one that persists to this day.
As youth turned to adolescence, I found, quite on my own, the goth group. As I was not allowed to wear the clothes I wanted -- dresses, jumpers, etc -- I took to black. Wearing all black every day for junior high and high school was (again, in retrospect) a rejection of the decision of clothing. Since I couldn't wear what I wanted, and because I could not articulate words let alone thoughts about what I was experiencing, I rejected choice. Goth.
I attempted to learn how to wear makeup during high school. It was a failure. While I moved freely in the circle of my peers who would have accepted it, I didn't feel I had a role model, as I was a high-achieving student but few if any successful people in my view were what I now know to be trans. I failed to transition during high school.
My college years (20's, more accurately, as I dropped out and changed my mind a lot) were characterized by experimenting. With gender, halloween was a precious opportunity to play. One year I simply cross dressed. I was rejected for waxing by a salon on the basis of my gender. I was rejected from a clothing store, in that I was refused help in finding feminine clothes that fit. But when I went out in some shitty black dress to Club Static, a queer bar, for the first time in my life I was called pretty. Mysterious stranger that night, I love you.
Life happens [hedge], and I retreated from gender experimentation. I married my first wife, got a master's degree, and was in a doctoral program. I largely was happy for this brief period, but as the marriage failed, I subsided into depression.
Immediately, I found my second wife. I blissfully surmounted my gender problems, though occasionally they would pop back up. Like that night I wore your shoes outside Ace. Yes, that was for real. I wanted those shoes to be mine. I wasn't surprised that I could walk in them. Our wedding and marriage was amazing, and I was happy playing the roles I had been subconsciously self-assigned.
As I moved away from Fort Collins and my research took me to North Carolina and then Indiana for Notre Dame, I found myself without those people I had counted on. I was alone, and had no one to share myself with shamelessly. Large parts of my life could not be openly talked about, let alone empathized with.
I joined a whiskey club. It was definitely a boys club. I played my part at the beginning, but I definitely felt like I was back in elementary school, forcing myself to play sports in an effort to have any friends. It worked for a while. But after returning from winter holiday 2015-2016, I was broken. Depressed from the realization of how fucking lonely I was in South Bend, I introspected.
Why was I so lonely?
Because I didn't identify with the boys. Why? Is this real?
Hmm. Maybe I'll try playing with clothing. I'll shave my legs again, I liked that in my teens and 20's. Yes, that's excellent.
Am I crazy? Are there other people who think about this? Am I literally the only person in the world who thinks about being another gender all the time??? Google. Reddit. r/genderfluid, and r/genderqueer saved my life. I found the words I was looking for.
queer. genderfuck. trans.
I was in the bottom of despair. I could feel no lower. I wanted to die. Kill me. Let it end.
I sought help. Upon going to my first ever Pride, the first ever in South Bend, too, I found Catherine Bast, who was opening Mosaic. She claimed to welcome everyone -- everyone has a place in the Mosaic. Me? Ok, I'll call for help. My sister helped me make the call.
I started some meditative therapy, considering my gender, and working on happiness. Mixhi was incredibly helpful. The sun passed through me into the earth, circulating from the core of my planet, through my feet and into my heart, out my head up to the heavens with each breath, in and out, streams of energy.
My first contact with knowledge that hormones exist was via reddit, and I asked about them. I should have started then. It wasn't the right time, though.
Through the fall, I played with my gender in private, and in secret. I hid my play, though I am sure not well. How can you hide makeup experimentation? I am sorry I hid. I didn't know how to not hide. It was what I had learned how to do over the previous 30 years. If I could go back and do it differently, I would.
January 2017, I was ready to start living more authentically. I started using the name Dani, as a step. I first wore my breasts at Martin Luther King Jr. campus luncheon, Walk the Walk, at Notre Dame. It was terrifying. But I did it. I was teaching Advanced Scientific Computing (wow, what a class!), and they were so welcoming and accepting of me. Not one of my students caused a problem for me. I was inconsistent in presentation, not knowing what I wanted to do or be, except that I couldn't live my life as a man any longer.
I accepted my assistant professorship at UWEC. I moved to Eau Claire in July 2017, and assumed the identity of Dani. I should have just done Danielle immediately, but, like previous movements in transition, I wasn't ready to take the leap. It was terrifying, and I didn't know what my name was anyway.
UWEC itself has been incredibly supportive, and the people I have come to call my second family emerged.
In January 2018, I started hormone replacement therapy. I also started using Danielle Amethyst publicly.
I separated from my second wife in spring 2018. I still love you, though we have parted ways.
I have been on hormones 8 months now. I have changed. My body is far more feminine, I have made great progress with vocal control, and I get misgendered a lot less. I catch glimpses of myself in the mirror, but she's still obscured by the wrong puberty.
My trajectory takes me somewhere mysterious. I don't know where it ends. And I don't know what happens along the way. But, I know that I am far more happy, at a deeper level, than I have ever been. The lows of transition are deep, and this process is far more challenging than anything else I have taken on. But, I can do this, and the highs are just incredible. There's life after transition. More to the story. A semicolon, not a period;
The diagram concludes with another fade, indicating that there's more that's not depicted. I hope you get to enjoy it with me.